September 3, 2012

I Want to Deposit a Cheque

I want to deposit a cheque. Simple, no? I can usually do this at a “kaspomat’ machine outside the bank. It takes about 30 seconds. Today the machine decides it cannot read my cheque. Hmm. I feel privileged that the bank is actually open. Israeli banks keep such bizarre hours; they are never open to the public for a full day, preferring to work half days with two two-hour afternoon shifts thrown in for good merit.

I walk into the bank and am greeted by cool air. I look around and something is different. People are lounging in chairs outside the tellers. They look like they are in the cinema waiting for the movie to begin. They are all looking at a screen that is flashing numbers. Where’s the popcorn?

A recorded voice then says “A407, wicket 2. C208, wicket 4. In perfect sych, everyone scrutinizes the paper in their hands, their eyes then reaffixing to the screen above. There are news items flashing from HaAretz newspaper, but the Hebrew is so complicated and the speed so fast, I catch only the first word of each headline.

Oh, numbers in the bank. What an efficient idea! I am thrilled at the progress this country is making and go to the machine. It asks for my bank card and then gives me two options to press. They are both in Hebrew. One says Premium. I can understand that but have no idea whether I am Premium. My card does not say Premium and no one has told me I am Premium. The second option I cannot distinguish. I see three Hebrew letters that make no sense to me. מת"ח . I sound them out and can’t even figure out how to pronounce this word. I ask my son who graduated high school in Hebrew what this is. “I dunno know,” he shrugs and returns to the news items scrolling across the screen.

Why does the bank machine outside give me options in English while this main button on this newfangled machine in this attempt to improve banking does not? I feel as if I am at the slots in Vegas and cautiously press Premium. Out slides a number. I then reinsert my card and press the second option. I must cover all my bases. I actually feel clever about my shrewdness.

The voice chimes new numbers. D428 wicket 14. M 604 wicket 12. What? Other letters? Other wickets? I sprint around the bank clutching my numbers and see that each desk has a board flashing with numbers and letters, however I cannot figure which letter belongs with which desk. None of the numbers or letters flashing on their boards have a vague semblance to those on my piece of paper. I go to the back of the bank and see another large line and another teller. More letters, more numbers.

Ten precious minutes pass. I run upstairs to a teller I know and ask her, hoping she will take my poor flimsy cheque and deposit it. She tells me that מת"ח means foreign currency. My logic is turned inside out. Suppose one were to have a foreign currency account; would that not mean that the word  מת"ח should, perhaps, be also be posted in a foreign language? My helpful teller then tells me that I am “Premium” and that I must wait in the line at back of the bank-on the other side of the movie seats.

I join a line. It is not really a line. Some people are sitting. Some are standing. Some are circling the way an aircraft does before it lands. Other hover like an eagle ready to catch its prey. I see letters and numbers flashing on a screen above this teller while everyone clutches at their number. Someone goes to the wicket and I hear her complain. The teller shrugs and says מה לעסות . (Translation: What can I do? There’s nothing to do. I am helpless. I don’t care, so be quiet) I hate this expression and know something is up.

I wait fifteen minutes. I hear some people grumbling and realize that the new system is not working. My logic recoils in pain. If the newfangled system that is supposed to save us time and aggravation is not working, then why are numbers still spewing out, giving people hope? Why is the recorded voice offering us a false sense of order? Why don’t they put a sign on the machine and then smother that voice? Why are there so many numbers and letters in the first place? I then realize I must hold my place in this line or I will never see the light of day.

I wait thirty minutes. The line gets longer. There is only one teller to look after us all. There are many circlers checking out their line butting possbilities. I spy a hoverer who skips a turn in line and walks right up to the teller. My stomach twists. I see an old man who is sitting down trying to get up. He will butt. I just know it. My turn is coming up next and I hate to be rude to my elders, but he came after me. I start to hover and as soon as the woman in front of me walks away, I am there. Ta da!

A woman interrupts me. “I am next,’ she says, indignant, pointing to herself in front of the watching crowd. “Show me your number,” she demands, the accuser in front of a jury. I guiltily unravel my old, sweaty, crumpled piece of paper and she scrutinizes. I am one number before her. She releases me. 

It is my turn. Officially. The bank transaction takes 30 seconds. The entire endeavour has taken an hour.I am frazzled. And mad. And frustrated. I do not enjoy fighting for a place in line or being challenged by rude people. I am belittled for being confused by Hebrew after having lived here for seven years. I feel intimidated. And depressed. I just want logic and order and kindness and calmness.

 I am tired. And my day has just begun.

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